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Rally planned Monday at 'Towson Gateway' marking anniversary of felled trees

Rally planned Monday at 'Towson Gateway' marking anniversary of felled trees
Protesters hold signs saying "Tree-Gate" and "We speak for the trees" during a protest the evening of April 5, 2017 at the intersection of York Road and Bosley Avenue in Towson. (Rachael Pacella / Baltimore Sun Media Group File)

A Towson advocacy group is planning a rally Monday to mark the one-year anniversary of the removal of 30 trees from the site of a proposed development on York Road.

“We want to focus on the fact that these beautiful trees were cut down,” said Janet Eveleth, a media representative for the group Save Towson Gateway. “It was illegal, because they were protected by the County Council. We want everyone to be aware of that.”

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Dubbed the “TreeGate Anniversary Rally,” it is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday on the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue. Eveleth said between 50 and 60 people were expected to attend, chanting and holding signs.

After the rally, Eveleth said, some protesters will walk to the County Council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m., and will sign up to speak.

The rally’s date, April 2, is a year and a day after the county removed 30 trees on land the county planned to sell to Caves Valley Partners, a developer, to build a Royal Farms gas station and convenience store.

The County Council approved the sale to Caves Valley in 2013. The county removed the trees to clean up the site in preparation for the sale, spokeswoman Ellen Kobler told the Towson Times last year.

Kobler was not immediately available to comment for this story.

Caves Valley also did not immediately return a request for comment.

Community groups opposed the gas station for years, citing traffic, noise and environmental issues. Last week, Caves Valley agreed to pay $6.9 million for the 5.8-acre property and committed to not building a gas station or convenience store.

In a County Council resolution from December 2016, councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, added language protecting the trees on the property.

“I was livid when I drove by that site and saw the trees being removed in violation of the County Council’s resolution,” Marks said. “There certainly should have been more consequences.”

Advocacy group Green Towson Alliance said it surveyed the property in September 2016 and that the 30 trees were removed April 1.

One of the purposes of the demonstration, Eveleth said, is to “rally for honest government.”

“We want to put the elected officials on notice that when you serve as an elected official, you should be held accountable to the people you serve, not to the developers” Eveleth said.

Heather Benassi, who lives near the site, said she hopes the rally results in an audit determining who was responsible for authorizing the tree removal, and whether the county improperly used taxpayer dollars to benefit Caves Valley, a private developer.

“We’re hoping if we can bring enough attention, we can get some kind of official investigation,” Benassi said, adding that an inquiry is important to give her confidence in the county’s ability to handle future developments.

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“It’s just sad they haven’t been able to come forward and be honest about what happened,” Benassi said.

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